BART Adds Bomb-Sniffing Dogs, Cites Convention Terrorism Alert

Friday July 23, 2004

Critics of the Bush administration have taken to accusing Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge of whipping up periodic terrorism alerts to keep us all off balance until the election. 

Those sorts of folks will likely cast a somewhat jaundiced eye on Tuesday’s news release from the Bay Area Rapid Transit District, which read: “BART TO INCREASE SECURITY FOR POLITICAL CONVENTIONS; BART to Use Staff to Help Patrol Stations, Along with Explosive Detecting Dogs & Train Sweeps.” 

Those critics with a grammarian’s eye might wonder why BART was employing dangerously explosive dogs in search of bombs instead of the much safer—and more traditional—explosive-detecting dogs. 

The reason for the announced security step-up? “(A)nticipation of the upcoming Democratic and Republican conventions.” 

The feds, having repeatedly warned folks of the potential threat to the East Coast political conventions, “have also expressed concerned [sic] that as the East Coast ramps up security, the West Coast will become an easier and more attractive target.” 

And, no, BART’s press release reassures us, there’s been no specific threat against the light rail system. 

Telephonically pressed for more details, BART spokesperson Linton Johnson said “We’re increasing our presence in key areas,” though he naturally declined to tell a reporter which ones. 

He’s also “not giving out any details on the duration” of the security beef-up either. 

The heightened state of un-color-coded alert may cause the occasional 30-to-40-second delay at stations as security personnel walk outside and inside trains, in the latter case in the occasional company of a four-legged bomb detector. 

The reporter, being from Berkeley, asked if the canines might sniff out a passenger who’d recently consumed a medically approved splif. 

“They’re not trained for drugs,” Johnson said. 

Vastly more costly electronic bomb-sniffers greeted passengers on the Connecticut Shoreline East’s heavy rail commuter runs starting late last week. 

In the initial run of the Department of Homeland Security’s TRIP—Phase III (TRIP being short for Transit and Rail Inspection Program), a passenger’s bags are X-rayed as they pass through a railroad car door equipped with the latest in explosive-detecting gadgetry.È